NABOKV-L post 0026726, Wed, 23 Dec 2015 18:10:59 +0300

Fleur de Fyler, Tuscany, Albanoland, Lang & coda in Pale Fire
In his Commentary Kinbote speaks of Charles Xavier’s chaste romance with Fleur de Fyler and mentions his new boy pages from Troth, and Tuscany, and Albanoland:

Her presence at night did not kill insomnia, but at least kept at bay the strong ghost of Queen Blenda. Between exhaustion and drowsiness, he trifled with paltry fancies, such as getting up and pouring out a little cold water from a decanter onto Fleur’s naked shoulder so as to extinguish upon it the weak gleam of a moonbeam. Stentoriously the Countess snored in her lair. And beyond the vestibule of his vigil (here he began falling asleep), in the dark cold gallery, lying all over the painted marble and piled three or four deep against the locked door, some dozing, some whimpering, were his new boy pages, a whole mountain of gift boys from Troth, and Tuscany, and Albanoland. (note to Line 80)

The name Fleur de Fyler seems to hint at Florence, the capital of Tuscany, a region (formerly, a grand duchy) in W central Italy. In Blok’s cycle Ital’yanskie stikhi (“Italian Verses,” 1909) seven poems are dedicated to Florence (the city compared by the poet to a smoky iris). Blok is the author of Stikhi o prekrasnoy dame (“Verses about the Beautiful Lady,” 1902) and Nochnaya Fialka (“The Night Violet,” 1906). In the latter poem, subtitled Son (a Dream), the Night Violet is the Queen of a forgotten land. In PF Charles Xavier (aka Charles the Beloved, the last King of Zembla) eventually marries Disa, Duchess of Great Payne and Mone. Florence is the home city of Dante (the author of the Divine Comedy), Botticelli (the author of Primavera, a painting in which there is Flora) and Leonardo da Vinci (the author of Mona Lisa). Queen Disa seems to blend Mona Lisa with Othello’s wife Desdemona. In Blok’s “Italian Verses” three poems are dedicated to Venice (the setting of Shakespeare’s Othello). In the closing lines of his poem Ravenna (also included in the “Italian Verses”) Blok mentions “Dante’s shade with aquiline profile” that sings to him about the new life.

Albanoland and Lang (the artist who made a portrait of Shade’s wife Sybil; lang is German for “long”) seem to hint at Alba Longa, an ancient city of Latium in central Italy, 19 km SE of Rome. The legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus (the twins who were suckled by a she-wolf and fed by a woodpecker), had come from the royal dynasty of Alba Longa, which in Virgil’s Aeneid had been the bloodline of Aeneas, a son of Venus. In Gogol’s fragment Rim (“Rome,” 1842) Annunciata is albanka (a girl from Albano, a suburb of Rome on the Alban Hills). At the beginning of Rim Gogol compares Annunciata’s black eyes to molniya (a lightning):

Попробуй взглянуть на молнию, когда, раскроивши чёрные как уголь тучи, нестерпимо затрепещет она целым потопом блеска. Таковы очи у альбанки Аннунциаты. Всё напоминает в ней те античные времена, когда оживлялся мрамор и блистали скульптурные резцы.

Molnii iskusstva (“The Flashes of Lightning of Art”) is a series of Blok’s essays written after the poet’s journey in Italy. In one of his poems on Florence Blok mentions tsvety (the flowers in dismal bloom) and says that only v lyogkom chelnoke iskusstva (in the light boat of art) one can escape from the world’s boredom:

Под зноем флорентийской лени

Ещё беднее чувством ты:

Молчат церковные ступени,

Цветут нерадостно цветы.

Так береги остаток чувства,

Храни хоть творческую ложь:

Лишь в лёгком челноке искусства

От скуки мира уплывёшь.

According to G. Ivanov, when he asked Blok if a sonnet needed the coda, the poet replied that he did not know what a coda was. In Rim Gogol (whom one can recognize in one of the men in the crowd in Alexander Ivanov’s painting “The Appearance of Christ before the People,” 1857) mentions sonetto colla coda and explains what a coda is:

Внимание толпы занял какой-то смельчак, шагавший на ходулях вравне с домами, рискуя всякую минуту быть сбитым с ног и грохнуться на-смерть о мостовую. Но об этом, кажется, у него не было забот. Он тащил на плечах чучело великана, придерживая его одной рукою, неся в другой написанный на бумаге сонет, с приделанным к нему бумажным хвостом, какой бывает у бумажного змея, и крича во весь голос: Ecco il gran poeta morto! Ecco il suo sonetto colla coda (Вот умерший великий поэт! вот его сонет с хвостом).

In a footnote Gogol says that in Italian poetry there is a kind of poem known as “sonnet with the tail” (con la coda), when the idea did not get into fourteen lines and entailed an appendix which could be longer than the sonnet itself:

В италиянской поэзии существует род стихотворенья, известного под именем сонета с хвостом (con la coda), когда мысль не вместилась и ведёт за собою прибавление, которое часто бывает длиннее самого сонета.

It seems to me that to be completed Shade’s unfinished poem needs not only Line 1000 (identical to Line 1: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain”), but also a coda (Line 1001: “By its own double in the windowpane”). 1 + 1 = 2. In Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (One: VI: 7-8) Onegin remembered, though not without fault, two lines from The Aeneid. In Pushkin’s EO Lenski studied in Germany. A German version of Shade’s poem can be even longer and have two additional lines (“but in Germany 1003,” according to Heine, the author of a poem about the Doppelgänger). Dvoynik (“The Double”) is a Gogol-style novella (1846) by Dostoevski and a poem (1914) by Blok.

One of Shade’s collections is entitled Hebe’s Cup. In the closing lines of his famous poem Vesennyaya groza (“The Spring Thunderstorm,” 1829) Tyutchev mentions Zeus’ eagle and Hebe’s cup. Tyutchev’s poem Cicero (1830) begins: Orator rimskiy govoril… (“The Roman orator spoke…”). According to Tyutchev’s Cicero, “happy is he who visited this world in its fateful moments, he was summoned by Gods as a collocutor to their feast.” According to Pushkin, at the Lyceum he would eagerly read Apuleius, while Cicero he did not read (EO, Eight: I: 3-4). In Shekspir (Shakespeare in Russian spelling) there is pir (feast), the word that in Tyutchev’s Cicero rhymes with mir (world). Mir = Rim (Rome). In his poem Kol’tso sushchestvovan’ya tesno (“The Ring of Existence is Narrow…” 1909) Blok quotes the saying “all roads lead to Rome:”

Кольцо существованья тесно:

Как все пути приводят в Рим,

Так нам заранее известно,

Что всё мы рабски повторим.

И мне, как всем, всё тот же жребий

Мерещится в грядущей мгле:

Опять — любить Её на небе

И изменить ей на земле.

The poem’s last word is zemle (Prep. of zemlya, the Earth) and brings to mind Kinbote’s Zembla. Shade’s, Kinbote’s and Gradus’ “real” name seems to be V. Botkin. It reminds one of “a bare bodkin” mentioned by Hamlet in his famous monologue. One of Blok’s poems from the cycle Yamby (“The Iambs,” 1907-14) begins: Ya – Gamlet… (“I am Hamlet…” 1914). Shade feels that he understands existence and suspects that the verse of galaxies divine is an iambic line:

I feel I understand
Existence, or at least a minute part
Of my existence, only through my art,
In terms of combinatorial delight;
And if my private universe scans right,
So does the verse of galaxies divine
Which I suspect is an iambic line. (ll. 970-976)

p. s. In my previous post “abdicated” should be “abducted.”

Alexey Sklyarenko

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